Metal detecting for beginners
With some research and patience, this hobby can be profitable. Plus, it's fun.
This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.
As a kid, the majority of my 10th and 11th years was spent poring over treasure-hunting magazines. I was a budding archeologist, coin collector, historian, and ghost town adventurer wrapped into one junior-sized Indiana Jones.
When I realized there was a device available that could turn any backyard into a potential dig site, I had to have one. I honed in on my parents' own proclivities toward antiquing, collecting and exploring to make my case. I petitioned them for a metal detector like most other kids my age begged for a new bike or skateboard. (See also: "100 ways to make a little extra cash.")
Since my record of past requests was fairly modest and I tended to take very good care of my things, the folks indulged me. I was the proud owner of a brand new Garrett Groundhog detector by the time I was 12. Fast-forward 30 years and I'm still detecting -- still finding small treasures and great joy in this curious pastime.
Metal detecting is often misunderstood by the general public. It's typically a solitary activity that most people look upon with a mix of curiosity and comedy. We're a varied bunch, but we generally fall into four broad groups: the mineral hunter, the relic hunter, the beachcomber, and the coin shooter.
Mineral hunters use their detectors to "mine" gold or locate other valuable minerals based on local geography. Relic hunters look for artifacts, not necessarily coins or jewelry (think Civil War enthusiasts looking for Confederate belt buckles or musket balls). Beachcombers are looking for anything of value -- modern coins, jewelry, etc. Post continues after video.
Coin shooters focus on older, more valuable U.S. coinage. Dimes and quarters produced before 1965 contain silver, while the same coins produced after 1964 are "clad" (composed of baser metals like zinc and copper).
Where's the money?
But whatever category a detectorist falls within, he's a treasure hunter through and through. As hobbies go, there are few others that can combine sunshine, fresh air, and moderate exercise with a dash of adventure and the potential for profit.
Yes, metal detecting can be profitable, but that profit is driven by research, networking, common sense, dedication, and -- of course -- a little luck. For most detectorists, every hour working a site is the result of three to four hours of research and scouting.
As a coin shooter, I look for clues all around me to determine where people once gathered because -- much like today -- where people go, coins get lost. I know that the biggest tree in the old city park was probably where most folks gathered on a hot summer day. I know the open field next to the old schoolhouse was most likely the baseball field or playground. Like all old-coin hunters, I read the remnants of stone foundations like fortune tellers read tea leaves.
And then I wait. Metal detecting is an exercise in patience and persistence. Like most things in life, the rewards are hard-won. Sites get hit by other hunters and become tapped out, remote areas get overgrown, and I'm always fighting the weather. But even on perfect days with the freshest location, successful detecting takes a zen-like calmness and steely determination.
Hours might go by with no finds, junk finds, or just a few average finds (wheat pennies, post-1964 clad coins, etc). On particularly rough hunts, it seems like I'm in the business of professionally recovering rusty bottle caps and old nails.
But then there are those rare moments -- unmatched by few things in modern life -- when I pull something of real value out of the dirt. That gleam of a silver Mercury dime (1916-1945) or, better yet, a Barber quarter (1892-1916) snaps me out of my stupor and reminds me why I devoted two hours finding the exact location of this old schoolyard and spent 45 minutes in the car to get here. I'm immediately time-warped to the day that coin was lost, and I unearth it with something close to reverence.
On particularly good days, I might pull two or three of these "silvers" from their hiding places. Once, last summer, after hearing my detector's familiar beep, I found a perfect 1865 silver dime just lying in the grass -- no digging required. Those are the moments that keep all detectorists going.
More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:
I love the hobby, agree great for exercise, like medition for me, great all around hobby, found many old coins, takes patience. I also meet so many interesting people, and use this to get on some old historical sites, just get involved in your community and it will open all kinds of doors!
Geo Detecting Treasure
1865 dime lying on the top in the grass....can only be 5 things.
1. another detectorist dug it up and missed it...two coins in a hole.
2. ground burrowing animal dug it up.
3. dime was sitting on a shallow rock all its life.
4. crack head stole it from a collection and dropped it fleeing.
5. man making wishes threw out his material prizes for wishes.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Children from lower income families are at greater risk of suffering accidental injuries and being sickened by food, according to a Consumer Federation of America study.